For any sports fan, John Wooden would be near or at the top of their list of greatest coaches in the history of sports, and with good reason. Wooden is the most decorated coach in college basketball history, with a career that included 10 national championships, 6 NCAA coach of the year awards, and membership in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Even the annual award for the best college basketball player (similar to the Heisman Trophy of college football) is named after him. What I find most interesting about his legacy is that he is remembered as much for his leadership style as his long list of accomplishments.
Wooden was a coach in the truest sense of the word. He was invested in teaching his players how to be a success at basketball as well as in life, and was a master at inspiring people to perform at their best. He had a clear vision for how he wanted the game to be played and conveyed it to his players (which hits an important factor of leadership, as we discussed a couple weeks ago). Importantly, he was also sensitive to his players’ needs and knew how to give them feedback in a constructive and motivational way. As a result, he maintained close, lifelong relationships with many of his players, who viewed him as somewhat of a father figure and life coach. Leaders who want to improve their organization’s safety culture could learn a thing or two from John Wooden’s approach. Why? Because he was the ultimate coach, and Acting as a Coach is critical when it comes to safety.